B side. Hard to find

18 Aug

I used to say that it’s harder to find hard to find things than it is to get them.  Now I’m not so sure.

S.A. Jones wrote a petition to the US Supreme Court saying that some Black farmers had been convicted and sentenced to death by a jury frightened by a mob and that they should be freed.  Once I knew of the petition, I could find and post it.  It is a harrowing description of Jim Crow.

The same thing happened when I hear about a brief written by Thurgood Marshall for the NAACP in support of the families of some Hispanic students who wanted to go the same schools as White children in Orange County, California.  It is the first version of the arguments in Brown v Board of Education.

But, when I heard about Concordet’s essay “Reflections on the Enslavement of Negros”, I could only find it in French as “Réflexions sur l’esclavage des negres.”  I can read it a little, actually about as well as Google translates it.  Here’s how it starts:

Although I am not of the same color as you, I have always regarded you as my brothers. Nature has formed you to have the same spirit, the same reason, the same virtues as Whites. I speak here only of those in Europe, as for whites of the Colonies, I do not insult you by comparing them with you; I know how many times your loyalty, your honesty, your courage have left your masters ashamed.

I don’t understand French well enough to translate some of his best sentences correctly.  Here’s the next line in French and, via Google, in English:

Si on alloit chercher un homme dans les Isles de l’Amérique, ce ne seroit point parmi les gens de chair blanche qu’on le trouveroit.

If we were looking at man in the Isles of America, we would find this true of Whites.  [As H. Ross would say, “What mean?”]

This was an important essay in the French Revolution and early expression of White folks’ moral development.  Wouldn’t it be fun to engage a 3rd year high school French class in a Black neighborhood in an effort to translate it properly?

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